For the second year in a row, the 65-day ban on fishing in the Bay of Bengal imposed by the government has lifted to usher in a boom for commercial fishing, besides making it more sustainable in the long term.
Over the past one week, trawlers loaded with huge catches of fish, particularly the revered hilsa, have been crowding Fishery Ghat, the main fish landing center in the district, to the delight of everyone involved in the fish business.
The local markets are buzzing. Despite plentiful supply though, the price of the mouthwatering hilsa -known as the King of Fish (maacher raja) in this part of the world- is proving sticky upwards, and still beyond the reach of many consumers.
Fishery Ghat is now abuzz with the fishermen, businessmen and wholesale traders due to the availability of hilsa fish. Everyone is passing a busy time here to handle such a huge quantity of fish.
During a recent visit to the Kotwali Fishery ghat, Kattoli and Anandabazar areas in the city, this correspondent saw that hilsa was being purchased from fishermen at Tk 20,000 per maund (1 maund = 37.5 kg approx., so around Tk 540 per kg)) while the wholesale traders have bought per kg of hilsa at Tk 600-625 which is being sold at Tk 1100-1200 per kg.
Talking to the fishermen, it was learned that they resumed fishing in the Bay after the 65-day ban, imposed from May 20-July 23 for the second consecutive year, was lifted. Commercial fishing returned to the Karnaphuli Sea beach on July 27.
Huge amount of hilsa fish is being netted during this period, members of the fishing community said. The size of hilsa is also big and they are expecting to make a good amount of money.
Although there have been short-term bans on commercial fishing in the past, last year was the first time that all fishing boats, including local fishermen, were banned from venturing out to the bay for such a lengthy period at one stretch.
The government says that fishing will now be banned between 20 May and 23 July every year to coincide with the breeding season, as part of its incentive-based PES (Payment for Ecosystem Services) scheme to conserve and sustainably manage hilsa populations. Previously as part of the same scheme, the bans would come in chunks.
Hilsa comprises the largest single-species fishery of the country, providing 11 percent of Bangladesh's total fish catch. Under the PES scheme the fishers are given direct incentives during the fishing ban period: they receive food as well as some support for alternative income generation, according to a paper in the journal Marine Policy.
Mohammad Ridwan, owner of a fishing trawler called FB Jannat,, said he along with 24 fishermen had gone to Kutubdia point of the Bay of Bengal after the ban was lifted a week ago. “We managed to catch 3 maunds of big size hilsa and 12 maunds of small size hilsa.”
They sold the kitty for a cool Tk 1.5 lakh, although Ridwan reckons it was worth Tk 50,000 more.
Mohammad Ali, president of Sonali Jantrik Matsya Shilpo Somobai Samity, said Fishery Ghat, the main wholesale market in the city is now busy handling trawler-loads of hilsa.
But the prices of some size hilsa have gone double in the local market as one kg hilsa is being sold Tk 1100-1200, he added.
Mohammad Manik, manager of Babul Sarkar wholesale market at Chattogram Fishery Ghat, said the fish arriving at the wholesale market is being sold through a bidding war.
At first, the trader fixes a base price below which they won’t sell, but as soon as that is met the buyers increase the stakes according to their means, he said, till one of them outbids the rest.
According to World Fish, an international non-profit organization that aims “to harness the potential of fisheries and aquaculture,” the scheme that the bans are part of has not only led to greater awareness of and compliance with the ban, but also “stock recovery and higher yields”.
Data collected by WorldFish from three hilsa sanctuaries over two harvest seasons (July 2015–June 2016 and July 2016–June 2017) shows that the total hilsa catch increased by 28 percent, almost touching 500,000 MT. By 2018, it had gone up further to over 518,000 MT.
Although there were concerns voiced over the impact marginal fishers, a paper presented by members of the Dhaka office of World Fish at an international conference, “increased hilsa production and average size (from 510 g to 915 g) resulted in increased household income of fishers by 52%.”
This is one ban that is set to stay.
As part of its national goal to bring down the overall energy consumption by 20 percent by 2030, an energy efficiency project is underway in 22 industries which is expected to reduce their overall power consumption by 43 percent.
According to official sources, Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda) has been implementing the maiden project of its kind through encouraging consumers to use energy efficient equipment and appliances.
The 22 industries include 3 cement factories, 9 garments industries, 7 spinning mills, one weaving factory, one paper mill, and one electronics industry.
Once implemented, the project will also save Tk 110 crore annually as their bills.
Sreda has arranged a soft loan of about Tk 1147 crore from two government-owned specialised financial institutions for the industries to implement project.
Officials said these industries are installing energy efficient equipment and replaced their conventional lighting system with LED bulb-based system.
“We hope, the industries’ average electricity consumption will come down by about 43 percent once the project is implemented”, said Mohammad Alauddin, Chairman of Sreda and additional secretary at the Power Division.
He said these industries gave a relief of 17.96 MW to the power generation while the annual energy saving will be 34,256 ton oil equivalent (toe) or 135,213 megawatt hour a year (MWh/y).
These industries’ emission reduction per year will be 80,357 t-CO2, he added.
Sreda officials noted that under the project, Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) (Idcol) will finance Tk 618.90 crore and Bangladesh Infrastructure Finance Fund Limited (BIFFL) (BIFFL) will provide Tk 528.90 crore as loan for these companies.
Energy industry insiders said that country’s most of the industries use conventional equipment and appliances for which they have to consume huge electricity than an international efficient standard.
“This inefficiency in energy consumption is not only bad for the power sector, but these push up their production coats as well”, said one industry insider.
Sreda officials said the government set a target to improve energy efficiency to gradually reduce the energy consumption by 20 percent by 2030 which will in total save about 95 million toe (113 billion cubic metre of gas equivalent).
They said energy savings will ultimately save an amount of Tk 76,800 crore billion in total, or an annual average Tk 5100 crore at the current weighted average natural gas price.
To achieve the goal State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid has urged energy experts to find out suitable technology for its efficient use.
“It’s impossible to achieve the target unless there’s a proven customised technology in energy efficiency,” he said.
At present, the country’s power generation capacity is over 22,000 MW and the government targeted to increase production 40,000 MW by 2030 and 60,000 MW by 2041.
Energy experts said if energy-efficient equipment and appliances are used, the same demand could be met by 20 percent less energy.
In its policy response, the government has taken steps to ensure financial stability in the country aiming to establish an improved loan culture in the coming days to tackle the adverse economic setback triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a government document, future steps will be included in preparing a concept paper on macro-prudential policy, drafting a Financial Stability Map taking international best practice into consideration, and formulating a Stress Testing Guideline taking systemic risks into consideration.
It said that earlier by making a 2 percent down payment, borrowers were allowed to reschedule their classified loans for a period of 10 years with a grace period of one year.
The Finance Ministry said this step helped reduce classified loans, which has gone down to 9.32 percent of total loans in December 2019 from 11.69 percent in June last year.
"To establish an improved loan culture in the country so that the loan recipients can repay their loans in time, necessary reform initiatives have been taken," the document reads.
The government has already established a Central Database for Large Credit (CDLC) for close monitoring of large loans and strengthening the monitoring system of banks and financial institutions.
Sources at the Finance Ministry said that properly implementing these initiatives will help the country have a better loan culture where the number and amount of loans will be comparably much lower, restoring financial stability in the coming days.
Macro-prudential policy has been defined primarily as the use of prudential tools to limit systemic risk.
Systemic risk is generally recognised as having two dimensions -- vulnerabilities related to the build-up of risks over time, and vulnerabilities from interconnectedness and the associated distribution of risk within the financial system at any given point in time.
In addressing these vulnerabilities, the macro-prudential policy complements its focus on the safety and soundness of financial institutions. By mitigating systemic risks, macro-prudential measures ultimately aim to reduce the frequency and severity of financial crises.
Macro-prudential policy encompasses a variety of instruments, including measures to address sector specified risk (for example, loan-to-value (LTV) and debt-to-income (DTI) ratios), counter cyclical capital requirements dynamic provisions, reserve requirements, liquidity tools, as well as measures to affect foreign currency based or residency based financial transactions.
Stress testing is a simulation technique, which is used to determine the reactions of different financial institutions under a set of exceptional, but plausible assumptions through a series of battery of tests.
At institutional level, stress testing techniques provide a way to quantify the impact of changes in a number of risk factors on the assets and liabilities portfolio of the institution.
At the system level, stress tests are primarily designed to quantify the impact of possible changes in the economic environment on the financial system.
The system level stress tests also complement the institutional level stress testing by providing information about the sensitivity of the overall financial system to a number of risk factors.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, during a parliament session in January, informed that as of November 2019, there were 8,238 defaulters with debts totalling Tk 96,986.38 crore in the country.
Of that amount, Tk 25,836.04 crore has been paid back.
The finance minister also gave detailed information on how much bank directors owe to their own institutions, as well as to other banks.
From their own organisations, bank directors borrowed Tk 1,614.77 crore as of September 13, 2019. This accounts for 0.166 percent of the total loans given by those banks.
From banks other than their own, the directors took loans worth Tk 171,616.12 crore, which is 11.21 percent of all the loans given out.
Mashrur Uddin Anwar, a former lecturer of Chittagong University, has set an example of how people can change their occupation by making pizza, a savory dish of Italian origin, at home launched a successful startup in his life.
Once he used to make pizza of different flavours as a hobby but now it is his livelihood. He not only makes pizza at home but also delivers these personally.
After leaving his job as a lecturer of Chittagong University (CU), Mashrur started his own business named ‘Pizza at Home’. He makes pizza after taking orders and then delivers it to his clients personally.
Mashrur completed his Honours and Masters degrees from Chittagong University on English Literature and then joined as a lecturer of the university.
Healso served as the head of the English Department of the University of Science and Technology Chittagong (USTC). Later he resigned from the post for different reasons.
After that he started his own business and opened his own organisatiaon ‘Pizza at Home’. He is all in all at his organisation. He does everything from taking order to delivery at home.
“I love my work and I am not ashamed of it,” he said. Since its inception, he has been getting a huge response from all, he added.
Besides, the pizza lovers of Chittagong have started to rely on the pizza of Mashroor due to the combination of service and taste.
Poaching of the famed spotted deer has by now become a fixture violating the Sundarbans ecosystem, beyond the reach of state-led, often multilateral initiatives to clamp down on this transnational criminal enterprise.
Side-by-side with the economic fallout due to the Coronavirus, and taking advantage of it as well as other difficulties stemming from the pandemic, poaching of deer has been rife for most of 2020.
Sundarbans Forest Department seized 200 kg venison, held 40 poachers and rescued 22 deer alive from different traps already this year. As with many types of crime, the real magnitude can only be estimated from the amount the authorities manage to catch, which is assumed to be a small percentage.
Sources said that only a tiny fraction of poachers are tracked down while majority of them escape any obstruction successfully.
Read Also: Three deer poachers arrested in Sundarbans
Taking the opportunity of relaxed security measures amid Coronavirus Pandemic, a vested quarter became more active in hunting deer from Sundarbans and selling the venison to make easy money.
Although currently all kinds of official entry permits in the largest mangrove forest are halted, poachers are taking different illegal ways to pursue their purpose. They are placing traps and poisoned mush to chase down the animals mainly deer due to its high price.
Villagers adjacent to Sundarbans said poachers hunt deer all around the year while law enforcers try to restrict it but in the past few months gangs of poachers became more active.
It is hard to predict as there is no specific statistic or survey done to measure the fall in the number of deer in the Sundarbans each year, they said.
Forest Department rescued 22 deer alive from the poachers from Tiarchar an area of East Sundarbans on May 4 and also rescued two more rare deer from Mathbaria in Pirojpur on April 23, April 24. The next month on May 28, another deer was rescued from a village in Sharankhola.
Read Also: 60 ‘deer poachers’ held in Sundarbans
According to Sundarbans Forest Department, a total of 158 kg venison, three heads and four rawhides of deer were seized from different areas during June of 2019 to July of 2020.
Besides, 28 boats, six trawlers, 10,000 feet of haunting trap were seized and 40 poachers were arrested and 37 cases were filed during this time.
Forest Preserver of Khulna region Moinuddin Khan said some outsiders returned to their home near the Sundarbans area dui to Covid-19 situation, they are invading the forest as there is no job. They are taking different measures in this regard, he said.
Bashirul Al Mamun, Divisional Forest Officer of West Sundarbans said they have increased the smart patrol in the forest and forest department is alert and seriously working to prevent the poachers.
Divisional Forest Officer of East Sundarbans, Muhammad Belayet Hossain said the poachers who were arrested were residents of Rampal in Bagerhat, Sharankhola, Mongla, Morelganj, Dakop of Khulna and Mathbaria and Pathaghata of Pirojpur.
Meanwhile, despite preservation commitments and a total ban on all killing or capture of wildlife in the Sundarbans, there is a consistent pattern of depleted biodiversity or loss of species which is declining the ecological quality of the forest, according to experts.